Category Archives: Mahatma Jotiba Phule

Remembering Mahatma Jotiba Phule on death anniversary

एक महान भारतीय विचारक, समाज सेवी, लेखक, दार्शनिक तथा क्रान्तिकारी सामाजिक सुधारक,

राष्ट्रपिता महात्मा ज्योतिबा फुले जी का आज के ही देहांत 28 नवम्बर 1890 को हुआ था,

महापुरुष की पुण्यतिथि पर उनको शत शत नमन !!!

Jotiba Phule

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4th February 1889 in Dalit History – Phules’ adopted son, Dr. Yashwant was married to Radha the daughter of Sasane.

04 Feb 1889: Phules’ adopted son, Dr.Yashwant was married to Radha the daughter of Sasane.

The Satyashodhak Samaj (The Truth-Seekerís Society) was established on 24 September 1873, and Savitribai was an extremely dedicated and passionate activist of the Samaj. The Samaj undertook the programme of arranging marriages without a priest, without dowry and at minimum costs. The first such marriage was arranged on 25 December 1873. Later, this movement spread across the newly emerging nation. The first report of the Samaj proudly notes that Savitribai was the inspiration behind this revolutionary initiative of a constructive revolt to reject 21 centuries old religious traditions. The marriage of Radha, daughter of Savitribaiís friend Bajubai Gyanoba Nimbankar and activist Sitram Jabaji Aalhat was the first‘Satyashodhaki’ marriage. Savitribai herself bore all the expenses on this historic occasion. This method of marriage, similar to a registered marriage, is still prevalent in many parts of India. These marriages were opposed by priests and ‘bhatjis’ (Brahmans) all over the country and they also went to court on this matter. Savitribai and Jotirao had to face severe difficulties but that did not deter them from their path. On 4 February 1889, at the age of 16, they also got their adopted son married in this manner. This was the first inter-caste marriage in modern India. The Satyashodhak marriage required the bridegroom to take an oath of giving education and equal rights to women. The ‘mangalashtake’ (the Mantras chanted at the time of the wedding) were to be sung by the bride and the bridegroom themselves, and these were in the form of pledges made by the bride and the groom to each other. Yeshwant was married to Radha (this is another Radha) alias Laxmi, daughter of Satyashodhak Samaj leader Gyanoba Krishnaji Sasane in this manner. To ensure that they got better acquainted with each other and with each other’s likes and dislikes, Savitribai had made Radha stay in the Phule household even before the marriage took place. She also made provisions for Radha’s education.

Check also –  4th February in Dalit History – Dr. Ambedkar met Gandhi in Yervada Jail

4th February 1956 in Dalit History – Dr. Ambedkar renamed “Janata” newspaper as “Pradbuddha Bharat”

Mahatma Jyotiba Phule

Mahatma Jyotiba Phule

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Reading Phule – Now No More Silences!

Written by – Subhash Gatade

“Lack of education lead to lack of wisdom,

Which leads to lack of morals,

Which leads to lack  of progress,

Which leads to lack of money,

Which leads to the oppression of the lower classes,

See what state of the society one lack of education can cause!”

  • Jyotiba Phule

..Most people do not realize that society can practise tyranny and oppression against an individual in a far greater degree than a Government can. The means and scope that are open to society for oppression are more extensive than those that are open to Government; also they are far more effective. What punishment in the penal code is comparable in its magnitude and its severity to excommunication? Who has greater courage—the Social Reformer who challenges society and invites upon himself excommunication or the political prisoner who challenges Government and incurs sentence of a few months or a few years imprisonment?..

(Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah, Address delivered by Dr Ambedkar on the 101 st birthday celebration of M G Ranade, 18 th January, 1943)


Jotiba Phule

Mahatma Jotiba Phule

Understanding or rereading a historical figure – whose life and times have impacted generations of scholars and activists – who has been subjected to praise as well scrutiny by best brains of our times becomes a challenging task.  One gets a feeling that whatever has to be said has already been said and perhaps there is not much novelty left. An added challenge becomes when you are face to face with scholars/activists who could be considered experts on the issue having done more detailed and through work on the subject.

Today when I begin my presentation I find myself in a similar quandary.

Would it be repetition of what the earlier scholar just spoke or a glimpse of what the coming activist is going to present? And to avoid the possible monotony of any such ensuing discussion – where all of us would be doing ‘kadam tal‘ (a lexicon used in NCC parades) around similar arguments and similar insights and would be lamenting in similar voices, I have decided to flag of few queries which have been bothering my mind since quite some time. It is possible that it would be considered rather blasphemous to raise such questions or they are so mundane that participants can just exchange smiles about their content. Anyway, whatever might be the outcome I would like to raise them with a sincere hope that they would possibly generate a conversation?

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18th July (1880) in Dalit History – Mahatma Jyotiba Phule wrote against the widespread consumption of alcohol 

18 July 1880: Taking a serious note of widespread consumption of alcohol, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule wrote a letter to Plunket, president of Pune municipality’s acting committee.

Mahatma Jyotiba Phule was a member of the Pune municipality from 1876 to 1882.

The letter read:

The municipality has spent a vast amount of money on appointing staff and running the health department with the aim of maintaining public health. Pune city was not familiar with the sight of liquor shops. But now liquor shops are seen even in crowded areas, thus sowing the seeds of decline in public morals. This nullifies the municipality’s aim to maintain public health. With the opening of liquor shops, alcoholism has increased, and many a families destroyed. The vice of alcoholism has gripped the city. To control the spread of this vice, at least to a certain extent, I suggest that the municipality should impose a tax on liquor shops in proportion to the damage they do. I believe no municipality has imposed such a tax, though the central government has done so. The municipality should make enquiries about this. I shall be grateful if my resolution is placed before the general assembly.

The letter created a stir. Dnanprakash newspaper lauded Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and said following in his support: “The issue to which Jotirao for the first time has drawn the municipality’s attention is of great importance. He deserves to be congratulated for his action.”

Mahatma Jyotiba Phule received an acknowledgement for his letter from the president of the municipality. The letter was placed before the committee in the first meeting itself and the following resolution was passed:

The president should decide whether to put this before the committee or not. According to the resolution passed by the central government on 22 October 1877, no tax can be imposed on alcohol. But the assembly hopes that it will be possible to reduce the number of liquor shops in Pune.

The acting committee’s resolution and the original letter were handed to Mr Ritchnell, president of the municipality, who sent them on 27 July 1880 to Henry Dickson, an excise officer, for his comments. Dickson returned them on 30 July with the following comments:

We humbly state that during 1873-77 there were four liquor shops in Pune. Since 1877-78, six new ones have opened, bringing the number to ten. The District Governor had given permission to open new shops because where there are no liquor shops, illicit liquor is prepared. The action was taken to discourage brewing of illicit, harmful liquor in Pune. In 1874, 15617 gallons of liquor were sold. In 1879 the sale went up to 22912 gallons.

The District Governor was convinced that alcoholism in Pune was rapidly on the increase. On 8 August 1880, Ritchnell assigned the case to the public superintendent who sent the following reply, on 27th August:

The reason alcoholism is on the increase is that previously the rich were not addicted to it, but now they are. It however may not be true that they have their fill of country liquor.

Ritchnell sent all the correspondence to the Pune municipality with the remark: It cannot be claimed that alcoholism has increased on account of the increased number of liquor shops. The question is whether anything can be done to put a stop to the spread of this vice.

In its resolution regarding Jotirao’s letter, the municipality expressed the desire to put in effort to reduce this vice from spreading. He was not the first to protest against alcoholism in Maharashtra. In 1852 the people of Satara had sent an application to the government to close down all liquor shops. In 1869  an officer named C. W. Bell  published an account of the government’s excise policy, which stated:

Towards the end of the Peshwa regime, alcoholism had gone up. Taxes earned from it had increased. Offenders were sentenced to severe punishment.

Influence of Jotirao’s work and leadership began to be felt widely in Maharashtra. He became the mouthpiece for the grievances of the downtrodden. There was no leader quite like him. He paved the way for the new era of social activism.

18th July6

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18th July (1883) in Dalit History – Mahatma Jyotiba Phule finished writing book Shetkarayacha Aasud

18th July (1883) in Dalit History – Mahatma Jyotiba Phule completed writing of the famous book ‘Shetkarayacha Aasud (Cultivator’s Whipcord)’

Gail Omvedt and Bharat Patankar describe the work as follows –

The work is in the form of a major critique of the joint exploitation of the Shudra and Ati-Shudra peasantry by the British and Brahmin alliance in the bureaucracy. The book is the most comprehensive of Phule’s work: it gives an account of the extortion by Brahmins in religious festivals throughout the year; of the Aryan defeat of the indigenous inhabitants (Phule was perhaps the first to turn the “Aryan theory” upside down and use it to explain Brahmanic control; though we should note that Dr. Ambedkar disagreed with him), then of the exploitation of “Shudra and Ati-Shudra farmers” by the British and Brahmin bureaucracy, then a minute description of the living standards of his farmers; then his own suggestions along with a condemnation of the swadeshi movement which was beginning at that time.

A word about Phule’s language: it is raw, powerful, not simply colloquial Marathi but very cutting, so much that RSS-wallas even today have called it “obscene.” But his use of language is excellent and his vocabulary extensive. Even more, his power of description is often extremely minute; as the description of peasant households given in chapter 4 will show.

18th July5

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10th July (1887) in Dalit History – Infanticide Prevention Home was started by Phule couple

10th July 1887 in Dalit History – Mahatma Jyotiba Phule’s letter reveals Savitribai Phule’s initiative to start Home for the Prevention of Infanticide for Brahmin widows.

Mahatma Jyotiba Phule’s wrote a letter to Under Secretary, Government of Mumbai. The letter significantly reveals that Home for the Prevention of Infanticide started by Savitribai-Jyotiba in 1863 was only for Brahmin widows and Savitribai had taken the initiative for it.

A young Brahmin widow named Kashibai used to work as a cook at the home of Jyotiba’s Brahmin friend, Govande. Kashibai was a poor, young, beautiful, honourable Brahmin widow from a good family. A scheming Shastri from the neighbourhood took advantage of this illiterate widow and as a result, she became pregnant. When all efforts at abortion failed, she gave birth to a beautiful baby. Since the Shastri refused to take up any responsibility, Kashibai was in a quandary. Fearing that society will not let her live, she killed the innocent baby by slitting its throat. She threw the body in the well in Govande’s compound, where it was later discovered. The Police filed a case against Kashibai and she was sentenced for life imprisonment in the Andamans. The incident took place in 1863. It was the first time a woman had been sentenced to such severe punishment.

10th july

Savitribai and Jyotiba were very upset and saddened by this trial and the turn of events. During that time, their own income was very limited. They were having trouble surviving but their heart was full of compassion and generosity. They immediately started a shelter home for such Brahman widows in their own house at 395, Ganj Peth, Pune. Others merely kept discussing this trial, which resonated throughout   the country but Jyotiba and Savitribai actually started work for these exploited widows.

This brings out the difference between them and others of their times. They put up advertisements all over the city and at places of pilgrimage announcing it as a way to avoid kalapani (life imprisonment in the Andamans) and thus, the information about the shelter home spread. By 1884, 35 Brahmin widows had come to them from different places. Savitribai would herself help in the delivery of their children and take care of them

In 1874, another exploited Brahmin ‘Kashibai’ came to them and they adopted her son. They brought up this child and educated him to become a medical doctor. Later, he grew up to continue the work started by them.

On the same day i.e 10 July 1887, Jyotiba made his will and got it registered at the office of the Upanibandhak (Deputy Registrar). In that, he notes with pride that Savitribai would take care of all these women as if they were her own daughters.

10th July 2


On 10th July, 1887, Mahatma Jotiba Phule made his will and noted that after his death Savitribai Phule would take care of all these women as if they were her own daughters. It was unusual at that time to appoint wife so but Mahatma Jotiba Phule always challenged the Brahmins’ ideology of discrimination.


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3rd July (1851) in Dalit History – Mahatma Jyotiba Phule founded a girls school in Chipplunkarwada, Pune

3 July 1851: Mahatma Jyotiba Phule founded a girls school in Chipplunkarwada, Pune in which eight girls were admitted on the first day. This was India’s second formal school for girls. The first one was also founded by the Phule couple.

Today, thousands of young Indian girls study to be doctors, engineers and architects. But in the 19th century, the idea of girls being taught to read and write was scandalous.[1] Jyotiba Phule started a girls’ school in Anna Chiplunkar’s mansion at Budhwar Peth, where he taught for four hours daily without taking any salary. He set up an acting committee and handed over the management of the school to the committee, which comprised of Keshav Shivram Bhavalkar, Anna Sahastrabuddhe, Bapuraoji Mande, Vishnu Bhide, Krishnashastri Chiplunkar and Vishnushastri Pandit. Vishnushastri Pandit later became famous as the supporter of widow remarriage. The school first began with merely eight girls on the roll; soon their number rose to forty-eight. Since the financial position of the school was not very sound, Jyotirba’s wife Savitribai Phule began teaching on an honorary basis; she also became its principal.[2]

Penniless and on the street, Jyotiba, in an article published in an Ahmednagar newspaper (Dyanodaya), wrote, “I had to take up a job and Savitri Phule went in for a teacher-training course, so the school (first school at Bhidewada in Pune) was shut down for some time. We later re-started the school in Chipplunkarwada in 1851″

3rd July

3 July 1946: Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel wrote a letter to Mavlankar (who was supposed to be elected as Chair of Consituent Assembly in framing the constitution of India after Dr. Ambedkar ceased to be the member of constituent assembly after partition) where he reiterated this position in which he noted that “everybody wants [Dr. Ambedkar] now” in the constituent assembly for framing the constitution of India.[3]

3 July 2007: Mayawati joined as member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council after elected unopposed in the by-election for the upper house of the state legislature. [5]

Mayawati declared that she chose to become MLC as she wishes to concentrate on the development of all the 403 assembly constituencies of state assembly rather than my constituency only.

[1] Hemali Chhapia and Anahita Mukerji, Educating Sita article in The Times of Indianewspaper, 9 October 2010

[2] Tarkateertha Laxmanshastri Joshi, Traslated by Daya Agarwal, Jotirao Phule essay

[3] Vallabhbhai Patel, Manibahen Patel, Sardar’s Letters, Mostly Unknown: , pt.1-2. Years 1947-’48 (2 v.) book

[5] accessed on 3 July 2013

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Jotiba Phule and Tilak and question of education for women and non brahmins

–Anoop Kumar

I am posting a few extracts from a paper written by Parimala V. Rao (“Educating Women and Non-Brahmins as ‘Loss of Nationality’: Bal Gangadhar Tilak and the Nationalist Agenda in Maharashtra”).

This was published as an ocassional paper by the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi. She is also the author of ‘Foundations Of Tilak’s Nationalism’, published by Orient Blackswan in 2010.

I have placed the extracts point-wise for easy reading; the references given below have also been quoted from the same paper.


The nationalists, led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, during 1881-1920, consistently opposed the establishment of girls’ schools, the imparting of education to non-Brahmins, and implementing compulsory education. They were also instrumental in defeating the proposals to implement compulsory education in nine out of eleven municipalities.The important source for this paper is Tilak’s own writings in his paper, the ‘Mahratta’.

  • The battle of Kirki in 1818 ended the Peshwa’s rule in Maharashtra. Within a decade of the fall of Brahmanical Peshwai, many intellectuals of Maharashtra began to work towards ending gender and caste inequalities. The revolt against caste disability was taken up more forcefully by Jotirao Phule.

  • He judged Hindu culture ruthlessly by applying two values – rationality and equality. The application of these two principles called for a total rejection of the unequal aspects of culture like the caste system, the authoritarian family structure, subordination of women, the ban on their education, and the enforcement of life-long widowhood and child marriages upon girls/women.

  • Jotirao Phule was the first reformer to articulate the importance of educating women and Shudras as a means of empowering them. Phule had the most radical ideas on educating women. He considered that men had kept women in an unenlightened state in order to preserve their own superiority.

  • He argued that had a holy woman written any scripture, men would not have been able to ignore the rights due to women, and would also not have waxed so eloquent about their own rights. If women were learned enough, men would never have been able to be so partial and deceitful.

  • Phule started a school for girls in 1848 and undertook the task of teaching there. He opened two more schools in 1851-52. The difficulty in obtaining teachers for his school encouraged him to teach his wife Savitri Bai who in turn began to teach in these schools. Both faced intense hostility from their society.

Jotiba Phule Vs Tilak and others

  • A small group of anti-reformists led by Vishnushastri Chiplunkar emerged in the 1870s. They were soon joined by V.N. Mandalik and Bal Gangadhar Tilak. This group called themselves Nationalists and began to analyse every reform as ‘loss of nationality or rashriyata.’ They termed the loss of caste as the loss of nationality.

  • They declared that ‘the institution of caste had been the basis of the Hindu society and undermining the caste would undermine the Hindu society’. Phule, who advocated the abolition of caste-based inequalities, was called ‘as traitors to the nation-rashtra’ by Chiplunkar and Tilak, who claimed that they represented the real Hindus.[1]

  • The campaign led by Phule and reformers for the implementation of compulsory education was opposed by Tilak . He devised various arguments against compulsory primary education. Tilak explained that teaching reading, writing, and the rudiments of history, geography and mathematics to Kunbi (peasant) children would actually harm them. This was the most definite way the elite had of avoiding competition in higher education and jobs. He also emphasised that the peasant’s children should be taught traditional occupations, and that the curriculum meant for other children was ‘unsuitable for them’. [2]

  • Criticising the reformers who pressed for compulsory education and argued that since the municipal schools were supported by public funds, they should be open to all, Tilak countered that ‘it was not public money as the entire population did not pay taxes and it was taxpayer’s money and only the taxpayers had a right to decide how this money was spent’.[3]

  • He suggested that if the government was bent upon providing education for all, then only ‘the education befitting their rank and station in life’ should be provided to the peasant’s children, while general education should be given to those who had a ‘natural inclination’ for it.[4]

  • Tilak argued that by supporting the extension of ‘liberal education for the masses the reformers were committing a grave error’ as ‘English education encouraged the people to defy the caste restrictions and the spread of English education among the natives will bring down their caste system’. Tilak argued that caste was the basis of the Hindu nation, and that it was extremely essential to preserve it to assist the process of nation-building. [5]

The Hunter Commission

  • The appointment of the Hunter Commission in 1881 to look into the issues concerning both the medium of instruction and the role of the government in maintaining educational institutions

  • Phule, in his representation, demonstrated the neglect of the primary education of the Shudras, Mahars, Mangs and Muslims in the Bombay presidency. Arguing for the cause of compulsory education, he suggested that the government should give more importance to primary education. [6]

  • Tilak opposed the admission of Mahars and Mangs to the schools. He criticised ‘the emotional British officers and impractical native reformers for encouraging the Mahar boys to seek admission into government schools’. [7]

  • Tilak also stressed that the nationalists ‘would not tolerate the alien government and anglicised reformers who in their zeal for the doctrine of the equality of mankind were interfering in the internal affairs of the Hindu society’.

  • The colonial government’s support to such an endeavour was, according to Tilak, ‘against the spirit of Queen’s proclamation, which guaranteed that the government would abstain from all interference with religious belief’.[8]

  • Tilak stated that the attempts made by ‘the indiscreet officers to force association of Mahars and Dhades on Brahmin boys was against the guarantee of religious neutrality.’ [9]

Tilak on Women’s Education

Let me stop my note here by saying that according to Tilak ‘education would make women immoral’.

[ For rest of his views on education for SC/ST/OBC and women you can directly read this excellent paper entirely at]

We have been told about Tilak that he gave the slogan ‘Swaraj is my birth right’. I want you to ponder on just two questions.

  1. What did the ‘swaraj’ he was fighting for mean for Tilak?

  2. Did Tilak’s ‘swaraj’ include SC/ST/OBC and women?



  1. Mahratta, 24 August 1884, p. 1.

  2. Mahratta, 22 March 1891, pp. 2, 3: ‘What shall we do next?’ Editorial; Mahratta, 12 April 1891, p. 3: Editorial; Mahratta, 26 April 1891, p. 2: ‘How Shall We Do It?’ Editorial.

  3. Mahratta, 15 May 1881, pp. 3-4

  4. Ibid., p. 3.

  5. Mahratta, 15 May 1881, p. 3.

  6. S. Bhattacharya, et al. (eds), Educating the Nation (New Delhi, 2003), Document no. 1, p. 1.

  7. S. Bhattacharya, Educating the Nation, Document no. 49, p. 125.

  8. Mahratta, 26 March 1882, pp. 5-6: ‘Admission of Mahar boys into Government Schools’.

  9. Ibid. p. 5.

Courtesy ― Round Table India

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